Emotions are not your issue.

You feel fear, anxiety, frustration, and you keep focusing on them. “Damn,” you tell yourself, “Why can’t I get rid of these emotions? They’re killing me. I need to calm down, relax, and manage myself better.”

Sure, there’s the ticket: avoid, avoid, avoid. You don’t like how you react to things so you look to deny who you are.

Your avoidance tendency is misplaced. Stress and emotions are not your issue. You must accept the fact that life is supposed to have some stress, and you can’t always control that fact. Marriage, Christmas, performance evaluations, having a baby, retirement, seeking a job promotion – all are stressful and require adjustment.

Should you avoid these things? Should you tolerate a mediocre job to avoid the stress of seeking a new and more challenging position? Should you avoid commitment in a relationship because you fear the stress of marriage? Should you resist ending an abusive relationship because you fear the stress of “making it on your own”? If you resist change and avoid stress will you be better off in the long run?

If you answer “yes” to these questions, you are avoiding life, not living it. Avoidance is a form of denial that says, “I’m going to ignore you, so please go away.” Denial and avoidance will not make stress magically disappear.

When faced with stress and the emotions that result, your best bet is to recognize your emotions, accept them as real, take responsibility for confronting the stress, and attack it by developing a plan of action that works within the boundaries of who you are and what you can control. Stress is not the issue; what you do about the stress is the issue. Your life’s road is not filled with obstacles; the obstacles are the road.

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